Thursday, September 9, 2010
The pastor of a small US church who planned to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 has cancelled his protest.
Terry Jones said he was calling off the event after the group behind a planned Islamic centre near Ground Zero in New York agreed to relocate it.
But the cultural centre's organisers said they had no plans to move it.
Mr Jones' plan had been internationally condemned and had already sparked many protests around the world.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had telephoned him to urge him to reconsider his plans. The pastor had also been visited several times by the FBI.
Mr Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, which has fewer than 50 members, had named Saturday "International Burn a Koran Day".
But at a news conference, he said he was now dropping the plans and urged his supporters to do the same.
"We would right now ask no one to burn Korans. We are absolutely strong on that. It is not the time to do it," he said.
If they were willing to either cancel the mosque at the Ground Zero location, or if they were willing to move it away from that location, we would consider that sign from God”
He said he would travel to New York on Saturday to meet those behind the Islamic centre, saying they had "agreed to move the location".
"The American people do not want the mosque there, and, of course, Muslims do not want us to burn the Koran," he said.
"If it's not moved, then I think Islam is a very poor example of religion. I think that would be very pitiful. I do not expect that."
Mr Jones was joined at his news conference by Muhammad Musri from the Islamic Foundation of Central Florida.
Mr Musri said he and Mr Jones had committed to travelling to New York "to come to a decision on moving the mosque".
"We are committed to dissolving the situation here and there," he said.
He also thanked Mr Jones for his "courage and his willingness to take these serious events that are unfolding".
But the organisers of the New York centre said no agreement had been reached with Mr Jones.
Leader of the New York project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf issued a statement saying he welcomed the cancellation of the Koran burning.
"However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri," he added.
"We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."
Mr Musri clarified to reporters that no guarantees about moving the Islamic centre had been given.
He and Mr Jones had only agreed to fly to New York to discuss the location of the Islamic centre with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.
Plans for the Islamic centre have prompted fierce debate in the US because of its proximity to the scene of the 9/11 terror attacks.
President Barack Obama had earlier warned Mr Jones the proposed burning would be "a recruitment bonanza" for al-Qaeda.
The US State Department had warned US citizens of an increased risk of attack, while international police organisation Interpol also issued a warning of the risk of violent response.
Update: Imam disputes pastor's claim:
(CNN) -- A Florida Muslim leader is disputing claims by the Rev. Terry Jones that he brokered a deal to get the Islamic center project near New York's ground zero moved if the pastor called off his Quran burning event.
Imam Muhammad Musri said Jones may have hatched the story about the Islamic center moving to "give himself a reason to call this off."
Jones "was trying to save face," Musri said Thursday night on CNN's "AC360."
Musri said he did not tell Jones that the Islamic center project would be moved away from ground zero.
'He's accusing me of lying to him, which I did not. I was very explicit with him." said Musri, who is with the Islamic Society of Central Florida.
Video: Imam shocked by pastor's speech Video: Uncertainty surrounds move Video: Pastor cancels
The disagreement between the two religious figures is the latest twist in the saga about the proposed Quran burning event.
President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday urged Jones to call off the Saturday event, timed for the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Jones said he would call off the event but then seemed to be changing his mind later Thursday.
During the afternoon, Jones said he canceled his plan to burn copies of the Quran, based on what he said were assurances that the Islamic center in New York would be moved.
Late Thursday, Jones said he would "rethink our position" after Musri said he had never given Jones that assurance.
Jones, leader of the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center, also announced he will travel Saturday to New York to meet with the religious leader behind the planned center, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, about a new location.
But that, too, was questioned.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 7:23 PM
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday ordered an investigation into the beheading death of an Afghan journalist, his office said in a statement.
Said Hamid Noori, a journalist for Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) was killed Sunday, according to Abdul Hamid Mobariz, the head of an Afghan journalists' union.
Mobariz said Noori left his home after receiving a phone call, and his decapitated body was discovered about an hour later.
"The killing of Noori is a big loss for Afghanistan journalists," Mobariz said.
He added that Noori had been working as the deputy chief of a journalists' union. He also directed an educational organization that taught students how to become broadcasters, Mobariz said.
Karzai has ordered the country's Interior Ministry to investigate the killing, the statement from his office said.
According to Journalists Without Borders, a group that defends press freedom and tracks the targeting of journalists, "Noori was a well-known TV anchor who went into politics and became the spokesman of Mohammad Yunus Qanooni, an opponent of President Hamid Karzai."
"While the motives are not yet known, it is important that the investigators should not rule out the possibility that this murder was linked to the victim's work as a journalist," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on its website.
"Although he had resigned as a state TV presenter, he continued to be a politically committed journalist and was an active member of the National Union of Afghan Journalists. We offer our condolences to his family and friends."
Posted by Steve Douglass at 5:49 AM